Hydra Systems for the Fire Service

HYDRA is an immersive simulation training system that provides learning scenarios focusing on decision making skills. During training candidates will split into groups and will receive information about the relevant tasks via a combination of projected image, computer and printed sheets. Training is not carried out in real time so the scenarios can be stopped and started on request.

A debriefing facility is incorporated for discussion on how teams handled their tasks and allows any decision making subject to be explored.

A Hydra training system gives everyone a chance to experience working with any type of incident, large or small, at any level, within a safe and challenging training environment.

Created in 1998 by Dr. Jonathan Crego for the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Learning Technologies (now NCALT), Nebula Audio Ltd are proud of their involvement and contribution in creating the first operational Hydra System that was to become the prototype for all future systems whether created by Nebula Audio or others.

Since the first implementation, Hydra has evolved into different formats to suit differing levels of requirements as well as to embrace new technology. Whilst Hydra systems are generally tailored to specific needs, the format when used with the Fire Service tends to be a combined Hydra and Minerva system with:-

There are usually 3, 4 or more Pods. This is where the teams work together on progressing the case or incident. Each pod is supplied complete with a computer, printer and any other maps, stationary and other equipment that is normally required in an incident room. Generally a projector augments the computers monitor is allows both locally generated images as well as images routed from the control room to be displays along with associated audio from wall mounted or ceiling loudspeakers.

Each of the decisions the delegates make is recorded in the control room and to enable this each POD also contains one or two cameras, with associated microphones that are wired back to the control room. This enables the controller to escalate situations and to see what the delegate would do when confronted with the training exercise in the real world.

A common factor in all Hydra system is that the control room should be separated from the other rooms and it should not be necessary to pass the control room to get to the Pods or Plenary room, thus eliminating any chance of hearing or seeing any events planned for during the exercise. Similarly it is also preferable that the plenary room can be reached without passing the pods to limit any observation of how a team are progressing other than under the instructor’s control.

The main Control Room is where the system is run from. Operators, facilitators and subject matter experts, run the exercise from here where they can see and hear the teams at all times via the CCTV, as well as observe the decisions they make. In addition, each team can communicate with the control room via their computers. This is for the purpose of requesting specific information or issuing instructions to ‘virtual’ staff on their enquiry team.

The control room usually has multiple monitors arranged on three levels. Dependent upon operator preference, the top level is used for video coverage, the next row down is used to view the screen output from the PC in each room whilst he third and row are the screens connected to the control room PC’s.

An additional larger LCD screen is commonly used to allow a larger image of any PC or camera source as well as a split screen display of all cameras simultaneously.

Pods, also known as Syndicate Rooms


Control Room

Incident Command Room


The Incident Command Room is a dual-purpose room that whilst equipped similarly to a POD it is used slightly differently and therefore also equipped with additional display devices and usually an interactive whiteboard that is Internet linked for access to Goggle maps and other 2D and 3D mapping software.

Acting as the central command for an incident, the environmental conditions will be different to reflect the actual working conditions that would be found if a room back at the station or that of a mobile unit.

Additional recording facilities in the form of camera and microphone are also used to capture any physical interaction between students and the ICU team for later analysis during debriefing

Additional Rooms

Whilst the above are the essential rooms for a Hydra system, often additional room are used for:-

Group viewing (by course assessors and none participants)
Linking to an external Incident or command vehicle.

The facilities required depends upon the scale of the system and if the rooms are to be used for other purposes to maximise the investment on infrastructure.

If you are considering a Hydra System, Nebula Audio are happy to offer a consultative approach to the complete design and specification process. We have extensive experience in the design, deployment and maintenance of these systems and offer a flexible approach including:-


■ Design

■ Project Management

■ Implementation

■ Maintenance

Additional information is available to public sector bodies that are looking to implement a Hydra or Minerva system; these can be obtained by following this  link.

Police Systems Request Additional Info

Debriefing Room

The Debriefing or Plenary Room in is where the teams are brought together at different points during the simulation for meetings, debriefings, and general discussions regarding decisions. It can also be used for general meeting and training.

Whilst usually equipped with similar facilities to a POD, due to the rooms size a larger screen is normally used with this often augmented by additional projection screens, interactive white boards and LCD screens as appropriate for the training requirements and available budget.